Survival of the Fittest: Staying Alive at #LFW

The press releases that flood into industry inboxes at the start of each season’s fashion week are awash with facts and figures. In the case of London this season, there were some impressive numbers: some £27 billion was spent on womenswear in the UK last year, supporting almost 800,000 jobs.

 


Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2016 show, London (photography by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION)

 

The jam-packed five-day official schedule includes 51 catwalk shows, and 32 presentations – including big-name returns like Alexander McQueen and Mulberry (featuring the debut of new creative director Johnny Coca). But what was, perhaps, less visible was the roll-call of names which aren’t on the schedule this season. A few weeks ago, Giles Deacon announced the temporary closure of his ready-to-wear line, to allow the label to focus on couture and made-to-order. In December came the news of Jonathan Saunders closing, and the decision of rising star (and LVMH award winner) Thomas Tait to opt out of fashion week. Other notable absentees include Matthew Williamson, Richard Nicoll, and Hunter – the last moving away from the schedule after a series of high-profile, big-budget spectacles over the past few seasons. And those are just the marquee names. Look a little further, and there’s a whole litany of forgotten stars: Avsh Alom Gur, Hannah Marshall, Emma Cook, Louise Gray, Gharani Strok, Clements Ribeiro, Antoni & Alison, Andrew Groves, Eley Kishimoto, Arkadius, Danielle Scutt, Louise Goldin. Of those that have endured, there are of course the headline anchors – Paul Smith, Zandra Rhodes, Paul Costelloe, Margaret Howell, and Vivienne Westwood, each with pedigrees dating back over forty years. There’s a small clutch of Nineties survivors: Preen, Antonio Berardi, Markus Lupfer, Peter Jensen, and PPQ. The rest, for the most part, are comparative newcomers. 

 


Bora Aksu Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear show, London (photography by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION)

 

Having made his LFW debut in 2003, Turkish designer Bora Aksu now finds himself in the unexpected position of being one of the schedule’s most established names. “When I had my first show,” he remembers, “it was six months after my graduation from Central Saint Martins. The whole thing was quite surreal. It was through a sponsorship award I won at my graduation, which provided a show and PR package.” Aksu went on to become one of the many beneficiaries of Topshop’s NEWGEN scheme, a scheme which has supported names as diverse as Erdem, J.W. Anderson, and Mary Katrantzou – and, once upon a time, Alexander McQueen himself. This year, NEWGEN’s line-up is an energetic bunch of remarkably diverse talents – Ashley Williams, Claire Barrow, Danielle Romeril, Faustine Steinmetz, Marta Jakubowski, Molly Goddard, Ryan Lo, and Sadie Williams. But Aksu’s keenly aware of the changes the last decade has wrought upon British fashion, and of the challenges posed to both new and established names by London’s remarkable resurgence. “It’s a very busy schedule now, and a totally different landscape with all the digital changes. So sometimes it can be hard to be heard amongst the crowd. Shows are a small – but very effective – part of the business. But through global online connections, your design language is made instantly available around the world. So being in one of the main fashion capitals gives the right exposure for your brand to be seen.”

 


Mimi Wide Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear presentation, London (photography by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION)

 

Exposure – in many ways, that’s the key to London’s success. It’s the perfect launch pad for radical ideas and new approaches, and it’s long thrived on the spectacle of its youngest stars. The trick, as ever, is following through. Ossie Clark, the city’s first great fashion designer, went from Sixties boy wonder to bankrupt has-been in the space of a decade. John Galliano’s label went bust just a few years into his career, before a lifeline came in the early Nineties in the shape of Givenchy and Dior. And whilst only the fortunate few may ever be in the running for those plum roles at the big international design houses (like J.W. Anderson at Loewe, or David Koma at Mugler), the key for the latest generation seems to be survival through multitasking. New Fashion East star Mimi Wade freelances as an illustrator. Sadie Williams designed a capsule collection for & Other Stories after her graduation, and now sidelines for other fashion labels. And, tempting though it may be to devote all your energies to your own label – especially if you’ve captured the fickle press spotlight for what may be an all-too-brief moment – Wade and Williams’ model may prove in the long run to be an increasingly sensible one.

 


Mulberry Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear show, London (photography by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION)

 

It’s not all doom and gloom, of course. Beyond those new names there are a clutch of successful accessories and footwear labels – Anya Hindmarch, Sophia Webster, Hill and Friends, Charlotte Olympia, and Mulberry – who are transitioning from single-category success stories into all-around labels, building successful clothing offers around their core businesses. The rise of the web, and in particular of e-shopping, means that brands can go direct to their customer, creating space for entirely different models of success. And let’s not forget good old-fashioned human sentiment and loyalty. “There is a specific customer who follows and loves the brand’s signature style,” Aksu notes. “I think it’s very important for a designer to have their signature – it’s almost like a fingerprint. This was taught [to me] by the legendary Louise Wilson at Central Saint Martins. I see it like a bus journey. Let’s say the route is the design language, but the passengers you take are your influences. While the route never changes, the passengers do.” 

 


Ashish Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear show, London (photography by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION)

 

That’s why press – and customers – still flock to Smith, and Howell, and Westwood. Just as they do, on a smaller scale, to Aksu, and Berardi, and Jensen, and all those names who have navigated the treacherous terrain of modern fashion, and survived. At shows like Ashish, Pam Hogg, or KTZ (another absentee this season, incidentally), the audience’s affection for the designer is palpable. And that human element – not digital streaming, not on-demand instant availability, not more noise – is what fashion needs to remember and retain in order to survive.

 

DISCOVER THE LATEST IN NOWMAGAZINE HERE.

SHARE
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
SIMILAR ARTICLES
ALIITA: A Sparkling Family Affair
By Elisa Carassai
Family affairs are known to be a tradition amongst Italian fashion brands. The Missonis, the...
By Elisa Carassai
Family affairs are known to be a tradition amongst Italian fashion brands. The Missonis, the Fendis, the Ferragamos and the Castiglionis, are just a few of the renown names that come to mind when thinking of the fashion empires that keep it in the family. One of these is Aliita, the jewellery...
Family affairs are known to be a tradition amongst Italian fashion brands. The Missonis, the Fendis, the Ferragamos and the Castiglionis, are just a few of the renown names that come to mind when thinking of the fashion empires that keep it in the family. One of these is Aliita, the jewellery brand established by Venezuelan-born and Milan-based designer Cynthia Vilchez Castiglioni with the help...
Loewe Releases Divine-Inspired Collection
By Alice Ierace
Loewe has released its limited-edition Divine collection, honouring drag queen and actor...
By Alice Ierace
Loewe has released its limited-edition Divine collection, honouring drag queen and actor Divine. “[Divine] was absolutely out of the ordinary. He lived an intense life as a man, performer, character and as a body. For me, it is the embodiment of the principle of self-determination,” explained...
Loewe has released its limited-edition Divine collection, honouring drag queen and actor Divine. “[Divine] was absolutely out of the ordinary. He lived an intense life as a man, performer, character and as a body. For me, it is the embodiment of the principle of self-determination,” explained Jonathan Anderson, creative director of the house.The collection consists primarily of three t-shirts...
H&M Launches New CHIMI Collab
By Rebecca Hitchon
H&M has announced a collaboration with Stockholm-based eyewear brand CHIMI for a summer menswear...
By Rebecca Hitchon
By Rebecca Hitchon
H&M has announced a collaboration with Stockholm-based eyewear brand CHIMI for a summer menswear collection. The CHIMI x H&M collection, which became exclusively available on the H&M website earlier this month, marks CHIMI’s first venture into menswear, after gaining success among the...
H&M has announced a collaboration with Stockholm-based eyewear brand CHIMI for a summer menswear collection. The CHIMI x H&M collection, which became exclusively available on the H&M website earlier this month, marks CHIMI’s first venture into menswear, after gaining success among the Insta-generation for their “inclusive, fun, progressive” sunglasses designs, in the words of Creative Director...
MQBMBQ Celebrates Black Queerness in all its Different Forms
By Sasha Regazzoni
The new three-week long fundraising project denounces white queer racism and black queer...
By Sasha Regazzoni
The new three-week long fundraising project denounces white queer racism and black queer antagonism through photography, literature and film.  Jamaican-born creative Jordan Anderson has long felt concern for the worryingly stagnant direction of the fashion and arts industries and the lack of...
The new three-week long fundraising project denounces white queer racism and black queer antagonism through photography, literature and film.  Jamaican-born creative Jordan Anderson has long felt concern for the worryingly stagnant direction of the fashion and arts industries and the lack of black LGBTQ+ representation within them, hence deciding to take matters into his own hands. “My Queer...
Y/PROJECT's Eclectic Versatility
By Alice Ierace
If there is one thing 2020 has taught us so far is that the...
By Alice Ierace
If there is one thing 2020 has taught us so far is that the show must go on. Even within the fashion industry, months of lockdown and uncertainty haven’t stopped designers and creatives alike to share their work and talent with the world. That's exactly...
If there is one thing 2020 has taught us so far is that the show must go on. Even within the fashion industry, months of lockdown and uncertainty haven’t stopped designers and creatives alike to share their work and talent with the world. That's exactly why, on a sunny June afternoon, Glenn Martens gave me a personal preview of his latest SS21 collection...
New Coalition To Tackle Racism and Discrimination In The Fashion Industry
By Rebecca Hitchon
A coalition of more than 400 Black editors, stylists, models and executives is set to address...
By Rebecca Hitchon
A coalition of more than 400 Black editors, stylists, models and executives is set to address systematic racism and discrimination within the fashion and beauty industries when it launches next month.Co-founded by Teen Vogue Editor-In-Chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner and publicist Sandrine Charles,...
A coalition of more than 400 Black editors, stylists, models and executives is set to address systematic racism and discrimination within the fashion and beauty industries when it launches next month.Co-founded by Teen Vogue Editor-In-Chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner and publicist Sandrine Charles, the Black in Fashion Coalition wants to concentrate industry efforts to fight racism through...
How Gen Z is Fuelling Demand for Gender-Fluid Beauty
By Ludovica Parisi
The misconception that usage of cosmetics was exclusively...
By Ludovica Parisi
The misconception that usage of cosmetics was exclusively aimed at females started circulating in the 19th century.    As a matter of fact, in 3,000 B.C, Egyptians of both genders would wear makeup such as kohl and red ochre to enhance their...
The misconception that usage of cosmetics was exclusively aimed at females started circulating in the 19th century.    As a matter of fact, in 3,000 B.C, Egyptians of both genders would wear makeup such as kohl and red ochre to enhance their features. In ancient Roman and Greek culture, cosmetics and perfumes were used by men and women to mask...
Paris Fashion Week To Go Ahead In September
By Rebecca Hitchon
The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode announced...
By Rebecca Hitchon
The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode announced in an official statement yesterday, that Paris Fashion Week will take place in a physical format later this year. “The Haute Couture and Fashion Federation confirms the holding of Paris Fashion...
The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode announced in an official statement yesterday, that Paris Fashion Week will take place in a physical format later this year. “The Haute Couture and Fashion Federation confirms the holding of Paris Fashion Week® for Women's Fashion. It will take place from Monday 28 September to Tuesday 6 October...